Paper Towns by John Green

I’m a huge fan of John Green (winner of YALSA’s Printz award for his first book, Looking for Alaska, and a Printz honor for his second book An Abundance of Katherines.)  His latest novel does not disappoint.  In fact, I may like it better than Katherines.  His writing is just sharp and funny, poignant at times, and he has great characters.  There is some talk over at Bookends about the possibility that his secondary characters are better developed/more appealing than the main characters.  I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but I do think his secondary characters really shine.  One of the appeals of his books is that they are populated by quirky smart kids who you can’t help but wish were your friends, or that you were just like them as a teenager (they are all geeky nerds, but the kind that you wish you were because they seem nerdily hip–some might say exactly like John Green himself.)

Q (Quentin) only has a few weeks left before graduation when his next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman (upon whom he’s had a crush for years), takes him on a wild night of adventures.  The next morning she is gone.  Margo has taken off before but always returned. Q is determined to find this girl who unlocked the potential for adventure in him and begins to follow clues to do so.  He is aided in his quest by his smart and funny friends.  I finished reading this on the airplane and the culminating road trip had me shaking with laughter.

Oddly, for me one of the very most interesting things about the book were the “pseudodivisions” that Q visits.  These are areas of land that were meant to be developed into subdivisions but the project failed and so the houses weren’t built.  However, sometimes signs remain, as well as roads.  So, you can follow a dusty sad paved road into nothing and see where houses would have been.  This book is set in central Florida, and presumably there is truth to these abandonded housing projects.  However, I live in New Jersey where Toll Brothers keeps snatching up beautiful farmland and turning it into horrible McMansion “estates”, even though as far as I can tell there is no shortage of housing in central New Jersey based on the number of houses for sale. And yet, they continue to build. It maddens me. So, that was a really intriguing part of the story to me, as was the concept of “urban exploring” (which I won’t go into here, so as not to spoil the story.)

All in all, another fantastic novel.

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